UPDATE 1-LATAM Airlines 2014 results to improve vs last year-CEO

Thu Mar 27, 2014 1:09pm EDT

(Adds comments on currency exposure)

SANTIAGO, March 27 (Reuters) - Results at LATAM Airlines , the region's biggest airline, will improve this year versus 2013, its chief executive officer said on Thursday.

"The difficult thing with the final numbers is that there is a tax issue, so I prefer not to speak about that," CEO Enrique Cueto said at an International Air Transport Association conference in Santiago. He was responding to a question about the likelihood of the company making a profit in 2014.

"But we are going to improve, compared to 2013, and that's the important thing," Cueto said.

The airline, formed when Chilean flagship LAN took over Brazil's TAM in 2012, recorded a net loss of $281 million in 2013.

In Brazil, the airline is improving margins by cutting capacity and jobs, but has faced a slowing economy and a depreciation in the real currency.

The airline is cutting its exposure to the real via forward contracts and by increasing its dollar income, and was confident it was now covered, Cueto said on Thursday.

"The real has been behaving well and we hope that will continue. If not, the industry will have to get used to it. But for now we are calm and well-covered," he said.

The company expects its real balance sheet exposure to be reduced to about $500 million by June versus $2 billion in December 2013, it said earlier this month.

LAN shares rose 0.8 percent in local trading, and 1.6 percent in U.S. trading. (Reporting by Anthony Esposito, Writing by Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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